People’s wellbeing key to recovery of economy

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses the nation. Photo/PSCU

In a report on Covid-19 and the world of work, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) highlights that protection of workers and their families from the risk of infection should be a top priority for all economies.

On the other hand, the report urges, it is critical that we look at stimulating demand to protect those facing income losses due to reduced economic activity.

As this is a new phenomenon for all, many countries continue to develop strategies that straddle the delicate balance between safety and protecting their economies.

And more so considering, especially in Kenya, that a huge demographic relies on high contact jobs and businesses. 

While a lot of economies have resorted to stimulus packages as a band-aid solution to cushion citizens from the shock of the disruption, the question of how to revive markets, even as the virus persists, remains pertinent.

For instance, the US Senate has agreed on a ‘coronavirus rescue package’, which would see cash payments being made to more than 100 million Americans.

In another instance, the UK government has unveiled a plan to pay up to 80 per cent of a worker’s salary, covering up to £2,500 a month.

Denmark also has outlined a plan in which the government promises to pay up to 90 per cent of a worker’s salary to private businesses to avoid job losses.

The Kenyan government has also set aside some funds to support the most vulnerable people during the crisis through direct cash transfers.

We have also seen efforts by the private sector to support the government initiatives in various ways.

For example, local manufacturers’ drastic response to provide Protective Equipment for Kenyans is just the tip of the metamorphosis industries and businesses have undergone to ensure that our economy does not come to a halt and to, as much as possible, mitigate losses.

From constructing and renovating of Covid-19 Isolation Centres, to the invention of ventilators, manufacturers have shifted operations and recalibrated their production lines to secure jobs for their employees and provide the necessary basic items to households. 

Additionally, they have given donations in terms of food, sanitary items and funds through various bodies including the Kenya Covid Fund to supplement government interventions and efforts by grassroots organisations.

President Uhuru Kenyatta recently said that “the economy is important but there is no point of having an economy amongst people who do not have life.” It is people that drive the economy. 

It is people that constitute markets which, in turn, stimulate supply and demand and pump money into the economy.

It is people that bring ideas and creativity, innovation, invention and teams. Without people none of this is possible.

It is, therefore, important that even as we continue to think of ways to revive the parts of our economy that we had “put in a comma”, we must factor in the physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of our people. People are at their best in a safe environment. 

This also  requires us to look at our health systems and reconstruct them to be more responsive and effective to deal with an ever-evolving crisis.

As industry, we are committed to working with all facets of government to meet the needs of our country now and in the future.

How we pull together now will set us ahead of the curve within the region especially in the wake of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. 

The crisis needs not to be defined by losses alone, it can be defined by our ingenuity and ability to adapt. — The writer is the CEO, Kenya Association of Manufacturers [email protected]

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